U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Federal Emergency Management Agency
FEMA CONGRESSIONAL ADVISORY #3
AS HURRICANE EARL APPROACHES, FEMA URGES EAST COAST RESIDENTS TO BE PREPARED
Families Should Visit Ready.gov to Learn Steps to Prepare for Hurricanes and Severe Weather
August 31, 2010
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its federal partners continue to closely monitor Hurricane Earl, as it moves toward the East Coast of the United States. According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), Earl is now a Category 4 hurricane. FEMA is closely coordinating with state, territorial, and local officials in the areas along the East Coast that could be affected by the storm, and it stands ready to support their response efforts as needed.
Since this weekend, FEMA has been in constant contact with the White House and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide regular updates on the storm's developments. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate briefed DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano yesterday on FEMA's ongoing preparations and coordination for severe weather in the Atlantic Ocean, including Hurricane Earl.
Please note that FEMA does not make decisions on whether or not to issue evacuation orders. These decisions are made by state and local officials. However, FEMA strongly urges everyone to heed these evacuation orders. In addition, residents along the East Coast should be encouraged to take steps now to ensure they are prepared for possible severe weather, including flash flooding, which is often caused by hurricanes and tropical storms. Please encourage your constituents to visit www.ready.gov to learn more about how to prepare for an emergency. A Spanish version of the website is available at www.listo.gov.
The East Coast
The National Weather Service had forecasted the center of Hurricane Earl to move into the open Atlantic today, and travel east of the Turks and Caicos Islands later today and tonight. Although no watches or warnings are currently in effect for the mainland United States, history has shown that storm tracks can change quickly and unexpectedly. Officials are closely monitoring the areas from the Carolinas to New England, and FEMA is coordinating with the Governors and local officials along the East Coast to aggressively prepare for possible severe weather and flash flooding. Both can occur miles inland, and are possible even if a hurricane does not make landfall.
FEMA has activated the National Response Coordination Center and its Regional Response Coordination Centers in all four of its regional offices in the eastern United States, located in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. FEMA has designated a Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) and has personnel on the ground North Carolina at the state's Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh supporting the state, and is mobilizing personnel and supplies along the coast.
The U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico
FEMA continues to support Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in their response to Earl. FEMA staff is on the ground in both areas working closely with commonwealth and territorial officials, and FEMA has deployed an Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) to St. Thomas and to San Juan, where staff are on watch around the clock monitoring developments.
FEMA also continues to monitor Tropical Storm Fiona, which according to the National Weather Service, is expected to pass north of the Leeward Islands today. According to the National Weather Service, tropical storm warnings are in effect for the Turks and Caicos Islands. A warning is typically issued 36 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical storm force winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous. Additional rainfall of 1 to 2 inches is expected today in Puerto Rico, with possible isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches. These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides. The Governor of Puerto Rico has issued a State of Emergency.
FEMA is also coordinating across the federal government to ensure commonwealth and territorial officials have the support they need. Federal and other support includes:
- Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has deployed a Regional Emergency Coordinator (REC) to the U.S. Virgin Islands in support of the FEMA Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) there, and has other resources prepositioned and ready for deployment.
- Department of Defense (DOD) has activated a Defense Coordinating Officer (DCO) in St. Thomas and a State Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer (SEPLO) team in Puerto Rico ready to support a response if needed.
- The U.S. Northern Command (U.S. NORTHCOM) is conducting weather reconnaissance flyovers today, including one departing from St. Croix, and one departing from Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss.
- U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has closed U S. Virgin Islands seaports and has redirected cruise ships slated for the area. Coast Guard assets have also been on alert and prepared to help in search and rescue efforts.
- American Red Cross has personnel on the ground in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
FEMA has life-saving and life-sustaining commodities and supplies strategically located across the country to support states in their response, including in the areas of possible impact. These supplies, including water, meals, tarps, blankets, generators and other essential items, can be replenished through the national logistics supply chain.
The National Weather Service remains the source of official severe weather watches and warnings, including flash flooding which can take only a few minutes to develop in the case of heavy rains.
FEMA encourages all individuals in the region to listen to NOAA Weather Radio and their local news to monitor for severe weather updates, and to follow the directions provided by their local officials.
Personal preparedness is critical and it is never too early for individuals and families to take action.
One of the most important steps individuals in impacted regions can take is to follow the guidance provided by local authorities. Additionally, FEMA recommends taking the following preparedness actions:
- Prepare a disaster kit for your home: Stock up on non-perishable food and water to sustain you and your family for up to three days or longer. Ensure you have important papers (e.g. insurance, identification), first aid kit, a supply of prescription medicines and other specialty items in your preparedness kit. In addition, plan to have an emergency kit for your car in case you need to evacuate. While creating a disaster kit, pet owners should remember to pack the necessary items for their pets. Find more information on preparing your disaster kit at www.ready.gov/america/getakit/index.html.
- Create an emergency plan: Know what to do if you have to evacuate. Make sure you know how to contact members of your family and have an emergency contact number for someone out of state that knows where you are in the event of an emergency.
- Be informed: Know evacuation routes and listen to local authorities when asked to evacuate. Whether you live in a coastal community or inland, speak with your insurance agent now about flood insurance and review your homeowner’s policy. Every state is at risk for flooding and homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. Flood insurance is a cost-effective way to financially prepare for floods. To learn more about your risk and flood insurance, visit www.floodsmart.gov.
FEMA’s mobile website, m.fema.gov, makes it easier to access critical information regarding emergency preparedness and what to do before and after a disaster right on a smartphone.
We encourage all Members of Congress from the Caribbean and along the eastern seaboard to reiterate to your constituents the importance of being prepared for hurricane force winds, tropical storm force winds and heavy rain as the storm system moves north.
We will continue to provide your offices with updates as the situation progresses.
If you have any questions, please contact Louis Eswood at FEMA-R2-ROC-PAO@dhs.gov.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.